Alex Smith got paid on Sunday. Unless your Labor Day weekend included going somewhere secluded and free of internet access, you’re likely well aware at this point that Smith signed to a four year contract extension worth a reported 68 million dollars with 45 million guaranteed. As I sit writing this on Sunday night, the exact details and cap numbers have not been released. What is being reported is that Smith may be getting 30 million up front and that the other 15 million guaranteed becomes locked in if he’s not injured next season.
I won’t speculate on what the specific numbers are for this post. I don’t need to. The big picture is enough for me to know that I’m happy with the Kansas City Chiefs extending Alex Smith’s contract. Assuming the four years and $68 million that everyone is reporting is correct, that means that when you include Smith’s $8 million for 2014 you get a five year deal worth $76 million dollars.
If Alex Smith plays out the full five years he now has in place with the Chiefs he’ll make an average of $15.2 million per year.
That’s not excessive.
That’s not elite.
That’s not a contract that will handicap the Chiefs in building a complete team that can compete for a Super Bowl.
I’ll address Smith’s abilities in a moment, but right now let’s focus on the money.
In today’s NFL the salaries of QBs just keep going up. Yet what John Dorsey did here was sign Smith to a deal that will end up paying him more like the top QBs of five year ago, not amongst the top QBs going into the future. Don’t believe me? Check out these contracts:
Ben Roethlisberger: 6 years/88 million (14.7 mil/yr), signed in 2008
Phillip Rivers: 6 years/91.8 million (15.3 mil/yr), signed in 2009
Eli Manning: 6 years/97.5 million (16.25 mil/yr), signed in 2009
So if anyone is out there complaining that KC shouldn’t have paid Smith like an elite QB, you can assure them that they didn’t, unless you’re judging by 2009 standards. Smith’s deal, at first glance, does not seem to be similar to those of Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick. Those contracts were longer deals but with team friendly, pay as you go options. Smith’s contract appears to be a legit deal, but with lower numbers (both overall and yearly) than has become the trend.
Don’t let the deals of Kaepernick, Dalton, and Smith fool you. The contract market for QBs is not drying up. When the next wave of franchise QBs like Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck sign their next contract you can rest assured that one of them (if not more) will likely surpass Aaron Rodgers’ current record of 22 million dollars per season average.
Part of the reason that those dollar amounts are sure to rise is the expected spike in the salary cap once the new television deal money kicks in. In this Pro Football Talk article they speculate that the cap could jump another $12 million to $145 million next season and then all the way up to $160 million in 2016. That would be an extra $27 million in cap space in just two years time. That increase in payroll will lead to an increase in contracts, especially for the most coveted veterans looking for new deals while still in their primes. QB salaries are always the most lucrative. That means that in just a few short years these circa 2009 numbers that Alex Smith is going to be making will look all the better.
When Tom Brady reworked his deal with the Patriots to save them cap space and allow them the money needed to build a more complete team he was hailed as an unselfish hero. Brady’s $14.8 million cap number this season equates to about 11% of the Patriots cap space under the $133 million limit. Let’s say that Alex Smith does make $17 million dollars (the average of this extension) in 2016. If PFT is correct and the cap number is around $160 million that would equate to about 10.6% of KC’s cap space.
Now, before anyone freaks out that I compared Alex Smith’s and Tom Brady’s deals, let me just say that I understand that Smith is not Tom Brady. I understand that Brady has won multiple Super Bowls and the reason that his deal was so noteworthy is because he would have been worth significantly more on the open market, where as Smith probably got exactly what he is worth. My point is that you can’t praise Brady for taking a deal that allows his team the cap space to compete and then complain about the Chiefs being financially handcuffed by Smith’s contract when they are comparable in terms of their percentage of the team’s cap dollars.
I believe that when the new TV money sends the salary cap shooting upwards you will see all the big time QBs making $20+ million per year. The averages of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco are already there. So wether you use the $17 million/year number of the extension or the $15.2 million/year of his remaining years left in KC, Smith will still be well below the “elite” contracts of the day even if he plays out his entire contract to its fruition.
So if you want to complain about the Alex Smith contract, it better be about the fact that you don’t want Smith to be KC’s long term QB and not that they overpaid for him.
For those that have concerns about Smith being the QB for KC moving forward, let’s address them.
We all know how good Alex Smith’s winning percentage has been since Jim Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco and Smith finally had some stability and quality coaching to work with. While winning is the ultimate goal for any team, I’m not sure that win/loss record is the ultimate means to measure a QB by. Instead, what I’m basing my trust in is what I saw in the second half of last season with my own two eyes and perhaps more importantly, what Andy Reid believes.
Alex Smith started seven games after the bye week last season. In those seven games he completed 62.8% of his passes for 253 yards per game, 7.4 yards per attempt, 18 TDs and only 3 interceptions. If you average those numbers out over a 16 game season you would get over 4,000 yards passing with 41 TDs and only 7 interceptions. He did that in the first year of a new system with a sorry excuse for a WR corps and a TE position devastated by injuries.
I understand that people have concerns that the WR corps aren’t any better this season and that the offensive line may have regressed, but that’s not an issue with Alex Smith, it’s an issue with those positions. If you want to argue that we need to find a QB that is good enough to overcome offensive line problems and a lack of receiving weapons, good luck with that. There are only a handful of those guys on the planet and the teams that have them aren’t letting them go.
Yes, the Chiefs could draft and develop a quarterback, but the NFL has left a long lineage of failed first round QB draft picks that have never come close to producing like Alex Smith has over the past three seasons. The assumption that KC could find someone better by simply drafting a QB in the first round is a risky one.
“But Lyle, we have Andy Reid and he has a proven track record of getting the most out of QBs!” some of you may want to counter.
Here’s the thing about that. If you trust Andy Reid’s ability to develop and work with QBs enough to want KC to invest in a first round draft pick at the position for him to groom, how can you not trust his opinion on Alex Smith?
You can’t have it both ways.
You can’t say that Andy Reid is the “QB whisperer” and could get the most out of a first round draft pick and then turn around and say he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he hand picks Alex Smith to run his offense.
He either knows QBs or he doesn’t.
You either trust Andy Reid or you don’t.
If you say that you trust Andy Reid then you should feel good about this contract extension because Andy Reid got the QB that he wants to lead this offense for the next several years and at a rate that will prove to be well below the top contracts in the NFL, especially in another season or two.
That’s the bottom line here. A head coach that the entire NFL respects when it comes to QBs just made a financial investment in the QB he wants to lead his offense. He got his man and he didn’t have to break the bank to do it. You are welcome to complain and predict doom and despair for the Chiefs if you like. It is a free country. I’ll admit that I have some concerns about the Chiefs offense this season, but those concerns are about the offensive line and wide receivers, not about Alex Smith.
When I make the drive up to KC on Sunday to see my beloved Chiefs take on the Tennessee Titans I’ll be more than happy to have Alex Smith under center as he leads my favorite team to victory. Hopefully it will be the first of many more to come both this season and into the future. Andy Reid is banking on it. John Dorsey is banking on it. The entire Kansas City Chiefs franchise is banking on it.
So how about you?